Seamlessly tacking my thoughts together. A costume maker's journey

Today I am starting a new phase in my learning of new skills.
I am starting a blog. I hope that by putting my reflections down every week I will be able to better understand my though processes. How I travel from one idea to another and how the interconnectivity of things applies to my own life.
The present projects I am working on include designs and making for The Owl and The Pussycat, The amazing Adventures of Baron Munchhausen and Williem Van Reuttenburgh from Rembrandt's Nightwatch.
I have never been sure how exactly my thought process moves from brain to finished costume, so this is quite exciting and will of course require a more disciplined approach than normal! At present I am designing a Theatre In Education performance for Key Stage 2. I have used Pinterest to collect together images of the Baron and spent a happy time this summer visiting museums and historic chateaus and places. I find the back ground research one of the most exciting phases.
Although Munchhausen was German, I have used mainly French buildings to inspire me.
This may have something to do with the fact that I could combine it with a holiday in Paris - but in any case it made for an enjoyable Summer.

I am not quite sure if I need to start a new message or just continue under my first post? So this will be a learning curve. But I wanted to post a link to Versailles.
One of the best things about being a student is the chance to visit places I have always wanted to see, but have never made the time to do so. Versailles was one such place and Amsterdam another.
Such a contrast, an 18th century confection in gold, sugar pink and pale blue, or a 17th century buffet.
Today I intended to have my action plan for the next 16 weeks neatly sorted, notice the use of the word intended. There are a lot of vague .. Friday paperwork entries, but if nothing else it has made me aware of the sheer volume of work left and the small amount of time. But I have had my formative for my Baron Munchhausen design project. I hope I managed to convey the excitement I feel about this one.
The idea is to use it as a story telling piece, the nice thing about that is that the reaction of the audience will dictate the direction of the storyteller.
I was a little concerned that my Fears project from last year used a cloak and headpiece, and I want to use headdresses for the children to involve them in the action, but fortunately my tutor saw this as a development, and not a sign that I can only design headdresses and cloaks!
I have started life drawing classes again. I never have much confidence in my drawing skills, but I can finally see an improvement. I really enjoyed the session, the last pose was for 1 hour and it seemed as though I had only been working for half that time. I don't supposed the model felt the same way, but he was led on a mattress so hopefully was comfortable. The nice thing was that a lot of the people taking the course were on the same one last year so I got to renew acquaintances. My next plan is to get some drawings of Gary sitting storytelling ( or looking as if he is) to get a feel for my costume plates.

Feathered Friend
2nd Feb 2015

I am still working away on my Night Watch Doublet, I put one hook and bar on every time I go down to my unit. I really enjoy stitching them on there is a certain satisfaction about getting the stitches to form neat little rings almost like flowers.
The Wizard of Oz dress rehearsal was "interesting" the costume changes are so fast and no one thinks about this when they are rehearsing, only the poor costume designer. It is as if they think a costume will morph into another costume at will, still I love it and it give you such a buzz when the thing finally comes together. The kids are great, I sometimes moan that they don't look after their costumes, but they have a sort of blind faith in me and my ability to provide them with a costume for the night. It is so worth while.
I love live performances. I don't have the same feeling about television or film. For me the fluidity of theatre is so much more interesting. I also like the fact that you don't have to spoon feed the audience the way they do in film. I should very much like to see a Noh play, I was interested in the idea that nothing ever changes in the performance, but because the audience sees the same play at different times in their lives, they gain a new insight into it every time.

9th February 2015

I finally got the body shape started on my owl. It was one of those things which I was making difficult when in fact it was easy. Note to self not to overcomplicate things.On Thursday I am going to York to see the "Fairfax Buff Coat". It has become very delicate due to over exposure and so is going to be conserved. I am very excited for several reasons. Firstly because I shall be able to examine a buff coat up close, and this one is very special because of the amount of lace/braid on it. The second reason is because the buff coat may have belonged to Lord Fairfax the Parliamentarian Lord General and is therefore a tangible part of our history. I won't be able to handle it due to its delicate state, but I can photograph it and draw it. Of course it will help me to decide on the stitching/shape of my "Night watch" buff coat and I shall be interested how it compares with the continental ones I photographed at Les Invalides. Are the continental ones very different, they are certainly more numerous if the continental paintings are to be believed.

The use of costume to tell the story

I am always interested in the importance of costume design between stage and screen. On screen may actors such as Daniel Day Lewis feel that they cannot begin to inhabit their character until they have discussed the costume with the designer, it is a collaborative process. On stage the costumes have often been designed without knowing who will be playing the role.

Obviously on screen the audience's eyes can be deliberately focussed on a particular character and their costume is seen up close. The audience can choose what they look at on stage and there is a distance which precludes tiny details from being seen. But surely if the screen actor requires these details to perform then the stage actor would deserve no less? So my first question, When we design for the stage, are we designing for the audience or the performer?

If the answer is both, then any consideration for a costume design must have to include both elements. I have been thinking about this, especially since Freja's post on cgi. Actor's often comment that they don't like working to a green screen and indeed Andy Serkis illustrates this. When he was originally hired to play Golum in the Lord of The Rings Trilogy it was expected that his role would never leave the confines of the studio. It was the fact that he had to play the role physically which pushed the boundaries of cgi acting and has raised the bar for future cgi roles.

I haven't seen Disney's Frozen but the merchandising is everywhere and I was struck but the amount of work that went into designing the costumes. Not only do they have the movement of real fabrics which would just be clever animation, but they have seams.

Are those seams for the benefit of the audience or the other animators? Do those seams help the animators to treat their characters as real?

All of these different genres require vastly different skills for the costume designers but they are all expected to achieve the same result for the audience. I suppose degree courses in the future will have to include animation and cgi skills for the design students?

The Fairfax Buffcoat

Today was one of those days when expectations lived up to reality. I was given the chance to examine the Fairfax Buffcoat which is in the collection of York Castle Museum. It was breathtaking. Most exciting of all was that Dr Prior (York Castle Museum) and Keith Dowding (Royal Armouries) have invited me to co author a paper with them since this buff coat has never been written up. So exciting. Keith has also invited me to Royal Armouries to examine the Littlecote collection.

And Now For Something Completely Different!

This is a production which is using cutting edge techniques. It looks as though it will be amazing and the cloak is incredible. However I did begin to wonder when I watched more of the videos, if the set, lighting, costume and props were beginning to overwhelm the performance? Obviously I can only base this on the video clips, and the music sounds wonderful, but, would the audience be distracted by all the bells and whistles?

This was a conversation I have had with my OH this weekend. An audience at a live performance are, in effect, part of the performance. If the audience don't react to their cues then the whole thing fails. (I am trying to say something here which I am sure has been said better many times before).  The director has to include the audience in their calculations when shaping a production. In the case of this opera it does seem to me that a lot of the audience will be going "Oh Wow that is an amazing effect".  Is that what their cue should be, it surely wasn't what Handel would have imagined when he wrote it, he would have wanted their focus on the music. Of course they can do things that he would never have foreseen. I was going to use the word imagined, but this is really the point of this long ramble. Is this technological masterpiece cheating the audience of the chance to use its imagination?

If we narrow the lines between film and theatre, then do we begin to to take away the role of the live audience to provide their imagination as part of the performance ?

As a one off it looks as though it will be an amazing event, but would I want this to be the future of theatre ... No definitely not!

17th February
The Buffcoat Continued

Fairfax Buffcoats must be like buses, you wait for months for one to come along and then two turn up! I was trawling the internet yesterday and came across a reference to the Fairfax Buffcoat being on display at Leeds Castle ( which is in Kent). Intrigued I sent off a query to Leeds Castle and the curator has replied. Yes they do have a buff coat reputed to belong to Fairfax and she has sent a photograph of it in a display case. I forwarded this to Dr Prior who wants more information.

There are not that many buffcoats around, Royal Armouries have the Littlecote collection  which I was lucky enough to see in the 1980's when it was still at the house. I never thought that all these years later they would come back into my life.

How odd that with so few around, there are two supposedly belonging to the Fairfax family. Did they own a huge stack of buffcoats, or did they just never get rid of old clothes? It is interesting. As a snap judgement, something I should never make as an historian, the York Castle buff coat is very expensive and high status, whereas the Leeds castle one is plainer with almost no braid at all. Given the status of it's supposed owner, I would put more faith in the York one as belonging to Lord Fairfax. I suppose we shall never know though and in the scheme of things it is probably not important

So how is your owl going?

I spent this evening gluing strips of fabric over the glued seams of my foam owl body. I gave in over using the foam. I still worry about the heat, but I have tried the body on and it is not as close to the torso as I thought it would be. There were some small ice packs in the pound shop, if it comes to it I will sew some pockets into the inside of the body with a waterproof fabric and use them to keep the costume cool.

I have glued strips of fabric over all the gems to strengthen them, the next stage will be to try it on Imogen again for fit. I am also drafting up the trouser pattern for him.

The Generosity of the course

I don't know if this is the norm among creative groups, but twice this week I have seen techniques used by fellow students, which I would like to explore within my own projects. One was the use of printed net feathers which I want to look at for my owl, and the other is the use of free machine embroidery of threads on water soluble stabiliser, which is ringing a creative bell with regard to my Baron Munchhausen cloak.

This sharing and expanding of ideas is one of the best things about being at Westwood.

I have worked in some places earlier in my career, where the opposite applied and people hugged their ideas and sources to themselves in order to gain an advantage. It is so much better when people want to actively share and expand their ideas. I noticed this with the puppet makers in our first year, any time a group of them got together they wanted to learn from each other.

So Will Shakespeare's Father was "Just a Glover"

I am now on my fourth attempt to make gloves for Willem van Reuttenburgh. I was feeling quite pleased with my latest attempt until I turned them right side out and realised that they resembled a large bunch of bananas rather than the elegant chamois leather gloves I had envisioned. I am therefore starting on attempt no five. In view of this lack of glove making skill, I am if I say so myself, very good at the thumb, I shall never again give any credence to the argument that William Shakespeare couldn't have written those plays because his father was only a glover. If Shakespeare's dad could fathom out gloves he was a genius beyond compare and his son's abilities are obviously an extension of his own brain power.

I refuse now to give in and buy gloves, this is not going to defeat me. But no wonder they were such high status objects in the 17th century.

Some thoughts on c.g.i.

This was an article on cgi costume on the Warner Bros "Green Lantern" film. It wasn't a wonderful film in terms of acting, script or depth of plot, and didn't rank as a box office success at a time when superhero movies are the fashion. It would seem from reading comments across the internet, that the main problem for this is the cgi costume. The following article is typical.

"It’s no secret that Superman and Batman are the two biggest characters in the DC comic and movie universes, but the famous duo may have to clear space next year when fan-favorite Green Lantern shines in theaters.

Most of Warner Bros.’ decisions, so far, have all been the right ones as they attempt to bring a second-tier DC character to the big screen – hiring Martin Campbell (Casino Royal) to direct, bringing Greg Berlanti (Dirty Sexy Money), Michael Goldenberg (Contact) and Marc Guggenheim (Eli Stone) onboard to write the screenplay, securing the musical talents of composer James Howard (The Dark Knight) and casting fanboy favorite Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) as Green Lantern himself.

However, the filmmakers’ decision to ditch the standard latex/leather/spandex combination for Green Lantern’s superhero costume in favor of a more modern, completely CG costume remains the most questionable choice they’ve made to date.

WB and other involved parties have supported this decision from the get go – at least publicly – telling fans to expect a truly masterful sight on screen. However, every trailer or picture released up to this point doesn’t seem to support their claims. After taking a good hard look at more stills from the Green Lantern trailer, I’m very worried the SFX of this movie may be headed into realm of SyFy channel original movie.

Before fanboys starting coming at me with the “CG isn’t done yet” argument, I fully understand there are still likely hundreds of man hours worth of work left on SFX. But I have to call foul on that argument because a trailer is supposed to give potential audiences a reason to see a film…not reasons to doubt a film’s success.

Putting out shoddy CG and expecting viewers to forgive it because it’s unfinished is like a five-star chef serving food while he’s still preparing it, then telling his patrons, “Don’t worry; it’ll taste better when I’m finished cooking it.” No one would wait around to find out if he is true to his word; they would just move on to better food.

The first picture of Reynold as Green Lantern which debuted on the cover of Entertainment Weekly looked pretty good even if the “alien grooved” concept wasn’t warmly received right away – but from there it has mostly been a downhill slide. The transformation scene at the end of the first trailer (see the picture at top) was almost laughable because of the cheap looking CGI and off-putting tone of the color scheme. These latest pictures aren’t helping the situation either.

Nothing really seems to have changed in this latest round of stills – the color scheme is still off, the suit still looks too fake, the hands, arms and feet look ridiculous and then there’s the awful mask. Even if the CG animators are able to fix the colors and add more realism to the suit, if they aren’t able to make Green Lantern’s mask look like it actually belongs on Reynolds’s face then the entire suit concept is sunk.

As the suit looks right now, there is no way it could possibly make our top six superhero costumes list – although it could reside easily next to Steel and the infamous “Bat Nipples” of 1997. There have been plenty of great-looking practical superhero costumes made for movies in the past few years, and there have been plenty of movie characters who were either created entirely from CG or at least enhanced with it.

Marvel’s Incredible Hulk looked fantastic as an entirely CG character and James Cameron’s epic film Avatar consisted almost entirely of CG created Na’vi and those looked incredible as motion capture characters – so why then can’t the Green Lanternsuit look just as good?

Answer – because neither the Hulk nor the Na’vi tried to combine the flesh and blood tones of a live actor with a CG effects. This is, as I see it, the main problem with the Green Lantern suit. Reynolds’ face doesn’t look like he’s wearing a mask, there’s no bunching or indentations on his face where the edges of the mask would sit, nor any of the other little nuances that just can’t be recreated within a computer environment. For all of its vast technical achievements, even Avatar had its moments of unrealistic CG and they spent YEARS perfecting those graphics – the Green Lantern CG staff has no such window of time in which to churn this out.

It could be the case that when Green Lantern releases in theaters next year WB has another Dark Knight-type success on its hands with Oscar-worthy story, acting and directing; however, if the quality of the all-CG suit becomes a distraction to audiences, then none of the good things about the film will be remembered.

Do you think Green Lantern’s all CG suit currently looks sub-par and has the potential to derail the film if not corrected, or does it even matter to you what it looks like?

Green Lantern protects the universe from evil June 17th, 2011.

Follow us on Twitter for TV and Movie News @Walwus and @ScreenRant

Source: Shock Ya via SCI FI Wire

Warner Bros Green Lantern 2011

Must admit that mask is very distracting.

Now this is more interesting

I am a member of a wide variety of forums on Facebook, one of which is Mask Central. They feature a different make maker every week and post images of their work It is quite exciting because there are so many different mediums being used, but this week's is particulary interesting because it features the work of Wonderheads, a theatre group who work in masks. The masks they use are almost caricatures and this requires a different type of storytelling, because the audience have to work with actors who have set facial expressions and no words. This means that there has to be a great deal of trust between the performers and the audience.

The photograph below shows the different characters they use during performance.

Interesting that I find these exciting but cgi leaves me cold. I realise that a lot of skill goes into making a cgi mask for Green Lantern, but I appreciate the skill in making and working with these masks in an entirely different way. I think it is because they exist and have personalities of their own, whereas the cgi costume has no reality.

Having a Hoot

I am really beginning to enjoy my owl costume. The shape at the back is particularly pleasing. I have dyed up my T shirting and covered the body. My next stage is to sample up the body feathers. Also now the shoulders are in place I can start to work on the head. I am sure that it is important to like a character style costume when you are making it. I don't know if this would apply to a "normal" costume, but puppets and characters have to have a life of their own. I found this in my first year when I was making the seagull puppet. The puppet seemed to gain a personality as he developed (notice he not it) and this in turn informed some of the materials which we used.

I want my owl to have a very friendly personality, so maybe I should never work on him when I am in a bad mood?

Anyway I am now looking forward to the Owl developing and enjoying the new skills I am picking up.  I would certainly use foam in constructing this type of body shape in the future.

My original idea for the body feathers was to cover the shape in faux fur which I would then cut and paint into. My tutor feels that this will not give enough movement to the feathers and has suggested that I cut and layer individual feathers. I can see the merit in both  ideas. In reality an bird's body feathers are very fine and close to the body, there isn't very much movement in them, but this is a costume illustrated in a children's poem.

My feathered friend

Today I started testing out the feathers for the front of Edward (the owl). I think he is going to be super fluffy at the front. It needs some white incorporating into the front feathers to make it closer to the illustration.  I love the way the fur used upside down givs a feathery fan with banded colour. I ordered the varaform and plastazote today so I can get started on Edward's head as soon as possible. I am really looking forward to working on the head. The trick with this will be to make Edward look like the illustration but also not to make to make it scary. All the owls I have looked at in the costume groups look quite manic - I think it has a lot to do with the shape of the feathers above the eyes as they can often look as if the owl is frowning.

Spitting Feathers

Well today has been fun, I spent yesterday cutting out feather shapes and today I attached them to Edward's front. When I started the first layer I wasn't at all sure that it would look like feathers, and as I progressed up the layers I couldn't quite be sure it was achieving the effect I wanted, it was only when I finished the top layer and stood back that  I was able to judge. Maybe I am biased, but I am very pleased with the result. I look forward to comments from the rest of the year to see if they have any suggestions/ amendments.

Starting to Fly

This week Edward has gained a pair of legs and more importantly a head. I really enjoy working with clay and variform. Although it is expensive, the final result is very pleasing. If I had a lot more time then I could try paper mache, I have seen some amazing creations on the Facebook group Papier Mache on the wild side. But apart from the cost Variform ticks all the boxes for me, it is light and easy to work and retains detail well.

I am glad I spent time in the Summer looking at owls. I used the illustration in the book to reference, but the lesson I did learn from our previous Ark of the Animals project, was that you do need to have a feel for the animal you are sculpting.

Hand in Glove

I finally found the time to finish the gloves for Van Reutenbugh, now I can decorate them. It took me a long time to master the making of gloves, but it has given me a great deal of satisfaction to be able to make these. I shall certainly make more in the future. 17th century men's gloves are often highly decorative and of course our William is no exception, his gloves have a blue and gold fringe to match the fringe on his gorget.

I shall continue working on them when I have a few spare minutes it is quite nice to change projects every so often.

I have attached the fringe to the gloves today and it really makes a difference.

What is a costume? Continued

Watching the participants at the Scarborough SciFi this weekend has been interesting. Here you have people wearing copies of costumes. Some are very well made and almost perfect replicas of the originals while others are badly fitting and poor copies from cheap materials. Do the cheap versions or the glued together costumes still function to inform the watcher and allow the wearer to inhabit the character?

Why do we as human beings have this desire to inhabit another persona? I was struck by the fact that most of the best costumes were worn by men, many of the females were content with less intricate replicas. I was also interesting that in an age where women have struggled not to be treated as objects, the bulk of the girls wanted to dress as the fantasy females designed by men. Skimpy fur bikinis and oversight corsets.

The other group I found interesting were the Steampunk crowd, now they are designing their own costumes for a particular genre and again it it the men who seem to take more effort with their costume.

It seems as though some people need a costume in order to free them from their inner self or to escape normal conventions. Hiding in plain sight as it were. I can identify with this as my family attend reenactment events and I work in schools in historical costume, when I do this I have a definite change of posture and delivery for each different character and period even though I don't adopt and accent or use archaic words I am aware that my speech pattern alters slightly.

Is it because the mind evaluates a silhouette and makes a rapid judgement about the inhibitor? ~This would make sense if you consider the early ancestor would require this process to survive. To distinguish between a predator and prey, or a different tribe would be vital.

On a Wing and a Prayer

I am trying to get the feather pattern right on my owl wings today. The problem for me is that the design seems to run counter to my idea of the feather shape. Also I struggle with colour matching. This only goes to show the importance of constantly referencing your design plate.  I assume that in industry you would be likely to have swatches of fabric as envisioned by the designer, but maybe not. Strange how poorly my mind remembers patterns and colours though. I don't know if this is just my poor observational skills or if we all suffer from this. I have just asked Freja and Emma about colours of everyday objects in their houses and they did both pause and think for a moment before telling me. I can't of course check if they were telling the truth but I suspect they were. This sparked a debate about colour matching - Emma said that although she could remember the colour of her curtains, she wouldn't necessarily be able to pick out the correct shades/tones from memory. Freja thinks she could pick out the shade reasonable well. Olivia thinks it depends on the amount of time you spend looking at the object. Both Olivia and Freja were fairly certain that if they went shopping, they could buy accessories for outfits which would match/tone even if they didn't have a sample with them.

So, when painting feather patterns on a sample, keep the illustration next to you rather than walking to the other side of the room and finding that your imperfect memory has let you down!

The Show must go on
21st March 2015

This week has been a two steps forward one step back time. I spent quite a lot of time working out the painting of my owl feathers and reached a pattern I was happy with. Good you might think - but no, when making a costume like this (and probably all other costumes) you ned to consider the whole look. When I started to look at covering the back of the body with fur in feather shape, I realised that the sample feathers made of plastazote looked awful against the fur. I tried glueing fur to the plastazote feathers but it was too heavy and look dreadful. Sarah our technician suggested buying some cheap shor haired faux fur and screen printing it. I acquired the faux fur, but my eye was caught at the same time by sheets of felt. I glued the felt to the plastazote and painted it - voila this works for me because a) the felt is an off white which help to make the transition less stark and b) the slightly hairy texture of the felt is more textured than the smooth plastazote and therefor mote "feathery".

I spent Friday making the trousers and I just have to put on a waistband, today (Sat) I acquired the rope for the belt.

This week has flown by (no pun intended), time seems to be accelerating as I get closer to deadlines, although Gary (My OH) says I always think this. The crucial bit will be next week, as we finish for Easter next Friday and have photo shoots bored for the following week. I should like to get two of my 3rd year costumes photographed but it does depend on me being able to get the owl head done.

As an inspiration for my costume making skills - I really need to find out how these are made:-

Flapping About
21st March 2015

Getting lots of instructions about our end of year show now, need to consider music, lighting, sett dressing and an overall aesthetic for my costumes. I am thinking that Gary as Munchhausen should direct the other two costumes as if part of his stories. It would be nice to be able to use the nursery children to recite The Owl and The Pussycat - need to find out about recording it. I intend to use Bonnie Tyler for the other two costumes.

Not too sure about lighting gels, I will have to look inside some of the books in the LRC to see if they have any help.

Looking Owlish
24th March 2015

I am really enjoying working on Edward now (if you haven't been following Edward is my Owl costume). One thing I am finding easy to enjoy on this project is sampling. Which is strange as this is something I normally struggle with. I am not certain if this is because I see them as problems to solve rather than something to do just to add to a file. I remember the same satisfaction when I was in First Year working on making a branch from first cardboard and then plastic pipe. What I need to do now is carry this enthusiasm for samples int my design project.

Edward is beginning to come together now though. I have feathered one side of his back and once the other side is done I can get his wings and tail feathers attached. I checked his head on Isabel today and after re aligning the hat inside it fits well without wobbles.

I amused the girls in Costa by asking for two lids from the Frappachino cups to use for eye covers (that isn't quite what they are but it is a reasonable description) They are an almost perfect circumference but I may need to trim them back a little and they come complete with a hole in the middle which means they won't fog up. The girls said it was the most random request they had ever had, so I shall have to take a photo of Edward in once he is done to show them.

I do love it when an ordinary object can be subverted into part of a costume. There is something about the thrill of the chase.

Olivia's dog has a furry head now, I am really looking forward to Edward having a feathered head.

Tonight I finished pad stitching the layers of my Buff Coat together and tried to sew it together. The sewing machine wasn't very keen on going through the thickness of the leather/drill and felt and it kept slipping, then I remembered the walking foot which came with the machine. I attached it and it was different matter, the machine handled the thickness' really well, the only thing it didn't like was there thread I was using, I thought a top stitch thread would work well, but it kept jamming, the ordinary thread was fine and the top stitch thread works well in the bobbin. I really should spend some time learning about the different weights of thread, also I should learn more about my sewing machine tensions etc. problem is that I usually just get on and sew with it and I suspect there are so many things to do to  to get the best out of it.

Sore Fingers
25th March 2015

This evening I started catch stitching the seams on the Buff Coat. I always have trouble sewing with a thimble, but going through the thickness' of leather and drill, I am really hurting my fingers, so tonight I taped a thimble to my finger so that I couldn't avoid using it. It was clumsy but it did help, the problem I now have is that I can only work in short bursts because my hands ache so much. On the plus side, the Buff Coat now feels as though it is made from really thick leather of the appropriate weight. I now need to decide what to use for lining. The Fairfax Buff Coat is lined with thin coral pink silk, I think I would like to use a silk lining and keep to the gold colour which William van Reuttenburgh seems so fond of. I re-checked the shape as my tutor was concerned about the curved bottom edge, but it is correct it should curve.

When I first started making this costume I didn't realise how my I would gain from it. The research has taken me behind the scenes at museums and put me in touch with several like minded researchers. I begin to see a link between the enjoyment of making a "prop" costume and the enjoyment of researching an historical topic. Both require a lot of problem solving. There is as much satisfaction in working out a new way of doing something as of finding a new piece of information. This is giving me a renewed enthusiasm for my Baron Munchhausen project. What I really do need to do is to get these two costumes finished so that I can have a clear run at it.

30th March 2015

Today I took part in a photoshoot at Scampston Hall. It is a lovely location and I decided to have the "Nightwatch" outfit photographed even though it wasn't finished. I am glad I did so because the photographer was really good. I am pleased with the decoration on the gloves and hope that the embroidery on the buff coat works as well when I have finished it.

Productive Planning for the Holidays
30th March  2015

On Saturday I took part in a button making workshop run by Gina Barrat. Gina has been very helpful in the past when I have asked her questions about passementarie and I was pleased to meet her in real life. She is an expert on early buttons, trims etc and has agreed to try and reproduce the braid on the Fairfax Buff Coat to determine the weave. The day was very pleasant and I met another historic costume maker. The buttons Gina makes are beautiful and she is a really lovely person. This wasn't a productive day in terms of my costumes, but it was fun and I think I needed a change of scene.

One thing I must do is to plan my workload well over the holidays as I won't have the discipline of university. I need to work on my paperwork and portfolio as well as my costumes. It is very easy to be sidetracked especially as I have my family home. I am also working on a paper to read at the Medieval Textile Conference in May. This will examine how useful the woodcuts detailed in The Cries Of London are as costume references.

Beginning My Portfolio
31st March 2015

Today I began work on my portfolio. I had already selected the paper colours I intend to use and sorted out my costume plates and technical plates some weeks ago, but  decided to start the cutting and mounting in this holiday. As I began to sort through and select the photographs and plates, deciding on placement, border size etc. I realised how far I have come since the start of the degree.

My first project was to design a cardboard costume for a sound. I wonder how different this would be if I was given this task today? I have gained new skills with every project and new confidence. How difficult it seemed in first year to square up a Janet Arnold pattern or to cut on the stand, both things which are second nature to me now.

I remember the focus I had on the Ark of The Animals project, where I spent weeks making a "stick" using different materials and playing with paint colours to get the right shades. The first weeks of that project I was so bemused and it was the Seagull Puppet workshop that opened my eyes to the potential of creating believable puppets. I was struck then by the way that the visiting professionals shared their techniques with each other. I had forgotten just how incredible that project was and how much was achieved by everyone

Something for the Future

I was researching feathers and wings for Edward when I came across this:- It wouldn't be right for the current costume but it is something I want to make in the future.

Feathering My Nest
5th April 2015

Today I have been working on Edward's wing and tail feathers. I am hoping that the tail feathers will have enough bounce in them and don't droop when I attach them, I am considering using wire under the rigelene  to see if that helps to hold them up. I hadn't realised just how many feathers I would have to paint, but the body is finished an the trousers are on, although I might take them in a little, and the painting of the feathers is holding me up. I have to glue the felt on the plastazote and then paint into it suing acrylic paints with fabric medium. when they are all painted then I shall machine the regimen down the spines.

I have also spent a while today making buttons and sewing them onto the doublet for the Nightwatch while considering music for the end of year show. I am managing to stick to the timetable I worked out for the holidays although I did go to bed early instead of working on my dissertation. Strange how much more pressure the single costumes put on me compared to making a whole school production.

I was hoping to go to London this holiday but I don't think I will be able to get away. I want to look at fabric for my Baron Munchhausen waistcoat. I prefer seeing the fabric in the flesh rather than the internet and even the small samples don't really give a good overall picture. Still it is something I may have to factor in for a fortnight time.

Bit of a Flap
9th April 2015

One of those days when nothing seems to go as planned. I am having to rethink the attachment of Edward's tail feathers. I am wondering if I should put them onto a band and then sew this onto his body, with a reenforcing piece of fabric placed on the inside. Originally I thought they would be detachable for transport, but the spread of them would make this a very flimsy arrangement.

The colour is not transferring to the felt as well as it did on my sample feather, not sure why but I am going to have to repaint them. I spent quite a long time trying to match the pattern on the tail feathers with the illustration not sure if I have got it worked out yet. On a happier note I started putting the feathers on his head. I sewed the bottom ones on and then realised there was a problem, because the hat is attached inside the headpiece, I couldn't get in with the needle as I went further up the head. I decided to try using the hot glue gun but thought there might be a problem using it over the wadding. As it happened the glue worked really well and proved to be a much quicker method of attaching anyway. I sewed all the feathers onto the body but the head is a rigid structure and so the glue doesn't need to flex. I plan to leave the front of the head until I am back at University next week as this will make or break the success Edward, the expression on the face is in my opinion the most important part of the costume.

I am also writing my Long Study Essay this week, well finishing it off to be fair as I have been working on it since the Summer. I managed to delete half a chapter today, don't quite know how.

I am still embroidering the lions for the front of the buff coat, I sent for yet another sample of braid from a supplier to see if I can find a suitable background braid to attach them to, otherwise I shall have to use paint/binder which was my original idea.

Feather Headed
14th April, 2015

Today was satisfying in the end. It started out with being told how few weeks we have left before the end of year( and University) and this left me somewhat depressed. Then I started working on Edward's head again and it really went well, in fact apart from adding the beak and working into the feather, the head is pretty much finished. I found each part of the head had to be considered with care. I started out thinking " I must get the eyes right or the face will look too fierce" when I was happy with them I thought "must get the ear right or they will make him look cross" by the end of the day it was " must get the beak right or he will look like Tweetie Pie" of course what I should have realised is that each and every part needs to be right because they all add together. In spite of the tie he has taken me, I can honestly say I have enjoyed every part of working on Edward. I definitely enjoyed using the faux fur upside down to get the feathered effect and sculpting the head. I think the main enjoyment is making something like Edward from nothing. No patterns in books, no preconditions.

The next stage is to attach the wing feathers, I am 98% certain how they are going to work, so I expect that I shall completely change my mind when I get started, but the joy of having no instruction manual is that I do have the freedom to change my mind if it isn't working out.

The End of Year Show

We have started planning routines for the end of year show. Our overall theme is journey. One part of the journey is working together as a team. On Monday night we planned the Montage and it worked itself out really quickly. Today the same thing happened with the order/plan for next Monday's photoshoot. I shall miss the people I have spent the last three years with, interesting how you come to rely on the other members of the group in different ways.

Time is Passing
15th April

One good thing about writing this journal, is that I can spend time thinking about what motivates me. I am interested in so many things, the world is such an exciting place to be. I used to think I was a historical costume maker and to some extent I am, but of all my costumes it is Edward that makes me smile. I am fascinated by historical costume in particular that of the 17th century, mainly because there was so much going on in terms of science, art and exploration and these enormous changes can be tracked simply by the clothing being worn by fairly ordinary people. In terms of making the costume, not so sure I enjoy that so much. If I look at my 1640's Nightwatch I think the gloves have given me most enjoyment so far. The reason for this is because I gained a new skill and that is what I really enjoy. It isn't that repetitive work is boring (although it is to be honest) it is that the thing I enjoy the most is learning and the thing I enjoy second most, is passing on the things I have learned to other people.

Last week we had the chance to talk to an advisor about setting up a small business. I went to see him more from courtesy than with any intention of doing so, I have been self employed for 20 years. It turned out to be a useful conversation in the end as he gave me some advice about grants and setting up websites, and I discussed the idea of setting up a business making mascot costumes, sale or hire. I don't know if I will go much further than the idea stage, certainly there is not time to investigate until after my degree, but I will have to do something to pay my way when I finish especially if I want to do a Masters.
This course has opened so many doors, I don't know which one to step through!

Time to Fly The Nest

Today is a very big day in Edward's career. It is my summative hand in and he will be judged on how well I have brought the Jan Brett illustration to life. I had a trial run with him on Monday at the photoshoot, but he didn't have his feet in place and there was a some more work to do on his underwings.

Disaster nearly struck this morning, I spent the evening making Edward's legs and to be honest I wasn't that pleased with the shape of them, but I was conscious of the fact that I need to work to my deadline. When I showed them to my tutor she was very tactful in saying that if I was making them in the future I might consider doing it differently. I know at once that I needed to redo the legs/feet and luckily there was enough time to redo them, unfortunately there was no time for his hand in, so he is waiting in the student storeroom  for his maiden flight.

I hope my enthusiasm for making him has come through in my tack, he has been a real learning curve and challenge, but one which has given me a great deal of confidence in my own abilities. I have also managed to keep to agreed timetables with him every week, possibly because there were so many things to do on him that I was never stuck waiting for something to work on.

There are things I would do differently if I was making him again, but then again he is a bespoke piece, not part of a production line and if I couldn't improve on him then what would be the point in continuing to make costumes?

One of the most exciting things in costume making at present is the number of new materials available for use, such as Worbla, Varaform and Wonderflex, and Fosshape. This coupled with the advances in 3d printing mean that there are probably 5 or 6 different ways that Edward could have been made, each equally valid. I could have made the head out of papier mache or wire, the feathers could have been screen printed onto cotton. I made my choices based on advice, cost, availability and time but most of all because I thought they were the best ones for my interpretation at this time.

Picking up the Pace
25th April

Today I worked on my files and then began to decorate the gorget for my William van Reutenburgh project. I am still on a high from finally finishing a costume, although I don't know that a costume is ever really finished. The costume has its own challenges to solve. The gorget is a case in point, I originally intended to make one from Worbla, but the constraints of time led me to feel this was not practical, I bought a plain gorget a few months ago because it was in a sale and I thought it would make a good back up plan if I didn't manage to make one from scratch. It needs work doing on it and I am glad. When I first started my degree I was inclined to look at sourced items in a different way. I often wondered why people made or printed things or fabrics which could be readily sourced. Now I am more inclined to try and make something - Julia's sweet jewellery being a case in point. So the fact that I can do something to the gorget to make it a better part of the costume pleases me. I have added the fringing and backed the metal so that it won't stain my buff coat when worn. I took a silicon mould of a lion's head from a drawer handle last year, don't know why at the time I was experimenting with the moulding compound. It comes in two colour pots, blue and white and you mix them together to make a sort of putty. You can press this against an object to make a mould and it sets quite quickly, then you can cast using UTEE (ultra thick embossing enamel) which you heat and pour into your mould. It sets and cools quite quickly the only problem is that you do get a lot of flash. Anyway I have cast lion's heads and am going to either spray them gold or use rub'n'buff to colour them gold - sample of either method will tell me the way forward. them I will attach them to the gorget.

An interesting thought has occurred to me (interesting to me that is) I find myself quite happy to sample when I reach a problem or can see more than one way of doing something, so why do I struggle with it on my design project? I think it is because the design project is on paper at present and the construction projects have been tangible. So when I reached a problem in the making I tried different ways of solving it, but in the sketch book I am not really seeing the costume as a real thing to work on. I shall think about this further and try a find a way to make sampling an instinctive thing. I notice the design students are all inclined to spend hours/days/months sampling so that is what sets them apart. Although I am sure many of my fellow construction students sample it may be just me

Back to Rembrandt

Photos came back from Polly yesterday, so the brochure can be completed today. I don't have anything for Munchaussen so like Rachael I have spent the evening working on a costume plate. It isn't my final design but it is at least the start. I found some really good fabric for the lining, almost exactly what I had been putting in my sketchbook and considering trying to paint onto fabric. I have cut out the shirt and that should be together tonight along with the title of the breeches. Wayne showed me how to make one style of flap fronts but I need to tweek them a little. I would like to spend the rest of this week sampling for a final design,  

The gorget on my Nightwatch is almost finished, only the gold decoration and tassel to put on. I also have to finish off the lion embroidery, I manage to do some most evenings so it should be finished in the new three days. Then it is just a matter of applying it to the buff coat.

I feel a bit like a juggler at present - all the balls are in the air and you just have to keep the rhythm going not to drop them.

Tonight I need to spend some time on rehearsal for the show as well as looking at my files and portfolio. I still haven't decided which costume to use for my Viva, the owl has a lot to talk about, but so does The Nightwatch, torn between the two. The owl has taught me such a lot about making and problem solving, but The Nightwatch has given my opportunities to examine extant costume and also sparked an interest in learning more about the Dutch Calvinists.

There are so many things to factor in for the next few weeks and then it will all be over, I am dreading that. I have booked some distance learning courses for the summer one on research and academic writing with Southampton University also there is an exhibition in Nuremberg  of 16th century costume which I want to see, so I am trying to work out a visit. One thing this course has instilled in me is the need for constant research and I now carry a pen, pencil note book and camera with me whenever I go out. I am also far more aware of people watching, looking at the clothes they are wearing and the way it fits, although most people's clothing doesn't. Strange thing that the High Street is full of shops selling clothes and yet most people don't look well dressed. The more we have the less we value it I suppose.


Not really the day I had planned today, I woke up with a nagging headache which stayed with me most of the day. I also had the car in for MOT so couldn't bring all the things I needed. I am still working on William's lions, but can only do it for so long. I hope they work out ok on the buff coat, it has been the major sticking point all the way through. I also started off a screen for Munchhaussen to see if I can print onto his waistcoat. I have decided to break his costume down into sections and design them in stages rather than trying to throw everything at the page as a whole. In this way I hope to keep up the momentum I have gained with Edward.

Baron Munchhausen is a project I can see clearly in my head but need to convey onto paper. Also I have to sample - and this time (unlike Edward) I have to do it before I start making rather than as I go. I have selected most of the fabrics now and am keen to get a day with my sketchbook to sort out final designs.

The Adventure Continues
29th April

Busy day today, it was my birthday and we had a brass rubbing group at York so I didn't get any work done in the evening. The day  was spent on sample for the Baron's costume. I am starting to get a feel for it now and have asked Emma to shout "Its not Historical" at me at regular intervals. I found some fabric that will be perfect to appliqué onto his coat lining to use as a map of his travels. I finally managed to get the screen print jellyfish done and was less than pleased with the result. Even printed onto silk it just looked flat and boring. I tried adding some sequins and that didn't do much more. It needs 3d to give the waistcoat interest, not as a garment, but as a way of moving the story along. I am concentrating on his undersea adventures because there are several so the costume can work as a set of scenes (so now costume is also scenery)

1st May

Today I decided to stay at the unit rather than going into Uni. The benefit is that everything is to hand (including Boyes) and so I don't have to keep wandering off looking for things, the disadvantage is that I don't have any tutors/students to ask if I need them. This was ok today because I had a definite set of targets. I lined the buff coat, finished another lion and 3/4 of the next one so a productive day. I also got an email from York giving me access to the University site so I can track my application. I am sure I won't get in but at the same time hopeful that I might (trying to prepare for disappointment). I still haven't decided which costume to talk about at my Viva I chose my own projects this year so maybe that is not surprising.

When we started the year we were told to plan out our work schedule and I did try, then later it was suggested that we should plan out each day, and again I did try, but it is only now that I am able to do this. Not because it is nearly the end, but because I have a better idea of what is to do. I do work better if I can set goals but they need to be realistic and I often underestimate how long things take me. Maybe I should try and write it down.

Night and Day
4th May

Spent all day working on the buff coat. Finally finished the lions on the bands and then turned up the hem on the lining. While I have been working on the costume I have been trying to think about all the things that need doing before the end of the course. The days are flying by and the amount of work seems to be expanding rather than contracting. Still love every minute  of it though. I am more or less certain that I will talk about the Nightwatch costume for my viva, although I love Edward and making prop costumes more that historical, it is the historic side of things which gives me the most opportunities for the future, I would love to make prop costumes as a living, but the arthritis in my hands is getting more of a problem and will restrict my sewing in the future. My love of the historical costumes is part of a fascination with the social history which goes with them. Interesting that we all wear clothes and yet there are very few good books on costume.  Even in terms of extended essays, the quality of academic costume books was limited - plenty on other aspects of the film but little on the costume. I want to find out more about theatre costume but again no one seems to have written a great deal compared to other aspects.   

Marching on
8th May

Handed in my "Nightwatch" costume yesterday so I can finally concentrate on Munchhausen. He is such an interesting character to design for and I am conscious that I need to move myself away from straight "historical" costume. All my costumes were chosen with Theatre in Education work in mind. I suppose it has always been a problem for this work of balancing the needs of a markable degree costume with the practicality of a real working costume. For the owl this was a case of beautiful costume but could only be worn for very short lengths of time, for Nightwatch the buff coat thickness makes it a theatrical rather than an accurate historical costume and with Munchhausen the decoration which would get marks makes the costume less practical in terms of transporting to schools. Still these are things which can be overcome. The owl costume can have ice packs inserted to lower the temperature, the layers of drill and canvas have given the buff coat a nice heavy feel and the Munchhausen costume will require breaking down so if it gets tattered it will all be part of the charm.

Cannon Ball Run
10th May

This weekend I have been working on Munchhausen. I have cut out his coat, it is green with red facings and I have used a blend of military and civilian cut. The red facings will need breaking down to give the impression of a faded glory. I have designed it so that the just corps is quite plain at first glance but the frogging and the epaulettes will add to the sense of the ridiculous. The lining of the coat with the islands and voyages marked on it make the justacorps into a piece of scenery as well as a costume. The waistcoat will be the main focal point of the story. The gold and black netting with the covering of sea shells should echo the elaborate embroidered waistcoats of the 18th century but will allow the Baron to talk about his underwater adventures. I made the decision to keep the breeches plain and simple they should be part of the overall silhouette but shouldn't detract from the main pieces of costume during the stories. I had originally made up a pair of flap fronted breeches, but my storyteller didn't feel comfortable in them and asked if I could change the style so I am making a pair of fall fronts, it doesn't really make any difference either to the silhouette or to the time frame.

Fire Away
13th May

As the days fly by the next stage is clearing our things from the work room in preparation for boarding out. While starting this yesterday I realised that it will be for the last time. When I started this course I had certain expectations of what I would be doing and learning, how different it turned to to be. Ever since I was a child I knew that I wasn't "artistic" or "creative" and certainly couldn't draw things. The course has taught me that it doesn't matter, what is important is honesty in your work. If that sounds a bit pretentious I don't mean it to, but if you draw/paint/collage/sew your costume plates it doesn't matter, what matters is that the plates should convey the costume and character. So when thinking about your plate, you need to think about the character not technical brilliance. I can of course know this without actually being able to do this! I was looking at the costume designs for a musical "Something Rotten" The costume plates are lovely and the article is well worth reading.

One sentence which struck me as very important was "I find that often times if your Principal Actors are designed simply that it gives you the equivalent of a ‘close up’ in a genre where there is no lens to help you." I have been worrying that my Munchausen designs will look too simple on costume plates but of course they should because that is the whole point of the production! What they will need to convey is the sense of fun and the magic of the storytelling. Now that is actually going to be the challenge so I am going to spend time thinking about the best way to convey this.

On with the Motley
14th May

Things that I didn't envision doing on this course, include designing brochures, or lighting and sound for the show. At first I resented the time they took out of my costume making workload, but I have realised in the last few days that rather than being an inconvenience, they are part of the process. If I look at the brochure as being a theatre programme and the show as being exactly that then I now see the importance of the whole thing as a learning tool rather than as an ending to the course. I am still waiting to see if I can get Lauren's daughter Caitlin to record The Owl and the Pussy Cat for me, but if not then Sarah and I have been looking at alternative versions. I was trying to link all my costumes together into some sort of story, but it doesn't work as there is no real linkage. I shall now view them as a series of one act plays.  

Riding High

The last few days I have been working on Munchausen. I have piped the cuffs.and made the buttons. The next stage is to put the frogging on the front of the coat. I have sampled several different types of frogs, the one which I had originally planned on using was too big for the coat, so I am experimenting with a slightly smaller one. I have also had great fun putting the ship together for the headdress. I am really looking forward to putting the waistcoat together, I am hoping that I have allowed in the size of the coat for the shells on the waistcoat. The next stage after the frogging is to put the epaulets together.

The only real problem I have had so far with the costume is trying to stop it from being lumpy. This is the only thing I don't like about working with wool In every other respect it is a lovely material. After the 1640's costumes I feel a lot more confident with making a man's costume, the difference with this one is that I don't have the restriction of historical accuracy. I still think I need to be a little more adventurous with my ideas though.

Flying to the Moon
17th May

Today I experimented with painting into the coat lining. I used a spray diffuser tube to blow the paint onto the lining. I may still not have been bold enough, I will examine it again tomorrow when the dye has dried. I am also working on the ship, using foam board to build up the sides. Before I worked on Ark of The Animals I would never have attempted something like this. I find that every costume I make informs me for the next one. Munchausen's coat is moving along nicely, it will need quite a lot of distressing before it really fits the idea I have of an elderly nobleman reminissing about past glories.

I shall look at the lining again tomorrow to see if I have painted in enough.

This is something which I have never tried until this year. I know it comes with experience, but what I should really do is take it into the Round and sit on a back row to see if it works or not. I have to balance this for a costume which is designed to be used in storytelling, not under theatre lights. The buttons please me, but the frogging could be improved. The coat will certainly be very hard wearing which is a good thing given where it is supposed to be used.

I don't think I have talked much about the research which I undertook for this project. I notice that most people in our year start in a variety of ways, from mood images from fashion magazines to bunches of flowers! I must confess I usually go to museums and galleries. This was an obvious choice for The Night Watch and I found visiting the Owl Display at Bridlington useful for Edward, my sources for Munchausen have been quite eclectic. I went to Versailles and looked at 18th century style since I wanted to give the costume a Rococo /Baroque feel. When I was looking at 17th Century costume I went to the Bowes Museum and Platt Hall, both of which have also got extensive 18th century collections. One very useful resource I have come to enjoy using is Pinterest. When we were first encouraged to use it in 1st year I wasn't a great fan but as the modules have gone by I have come to rely on it more and more as a repository for my images and also for techniques. I know that there is some concern about copyright issues on Pinterest but as a visual inboard it is excellent and something which is now the first thing I go to when starting a new project, or if I come across an interesting image or method. The only thing I was finding difficult to manage was to print images from off of my boards, but Olivia has just showed me how to do that.

Charting a Course
18th May

I said yesterday that I would look at my lining and see if I had been bold enough. I thought I had until I showed Emma (my tutor) a photograph and she told me it needed more. I went back and used the diffuser to add more and then I took a deep breath, if you will pardon the pun, and went at it again. At first I thought I had overdone things and I really hated the effect, thinking I had ruined my costume I went to Zumba. When I got back to work on things again I looked at the lining once more and was surprised to find that the effect was different again. I am not sure if I needed to walk away from it for a while or if the dye had blended and spread in my absence (unlikely) but I like it far more now. I also like the effect of the piping down the front. The corduroy gives a twisted rope effect. I also sampled some puff binders on the silk and had a happy accident. One of the screen printed seaweeds came out in a more seaweed like way than normal. I heated the binder with the hair dryer and as nothing was puffing I ironed to at which point it rippled and changed to give a very interesting effect. I need to see if I can reproduce this tomorrow as it would really look good on the waistcoat.

Powder Keg
20th May

The lining for the coat is now inserted and I have made all the buttons. I have been so impressed with the 2nd years wigs for La Traviata, they are really beautiful. My ship is coming on well, I only intended to sample it as a shape, but am thinking I will continue and make it up. If I was starting out on this project again I think I would try a different approach to my designing. I might make up the basic silhouette as a toile and then use that as a sketch book, it would only work if you had a silhouette in mind at the start of course. I am really pleased with the lining.

A head of Steam
23rd May 2015

I am working on the Munchausen breeches today, The gold/sand coloured silk with the little raised flowers is ideal, I think the flowers look like starfish. I had to change my pattern from my original toile to give the back the puffy shape. I suspect this will throw the front out of balance but will give a better silhouette.

The exhibition spaces are painted with a first coat of paint and I have been thinking about the layout for my space. I think I have a wall to work with. There are many skills on this course which I have never even considered before, such as displaying your work or making a portfolio. Each new challenge has to be tackled and overcome. The rehearsals proceed apace and the show draws inexorably closer. I still have mixed feelings, three years have flown by and I look back at them and am amazed at the numbers of new skills I have gained. I am also now certain of the type of costumes I should like to make, informed by the costumes I have made on this course.

Driving On
25th May 2015

I spent several days working on my paperwork. I want my costume plates to have a childlike feel to them and I have been drawing children - not the easiest thing for me. Finally I went to the library and searched through some children's books for inspiration. I used the drawings of Shirley Hughs to inform me and this style suits my characters . I still haven't settled on the medium though, pastel is soft but to be honest messy to put in my portfolio. I like collage but it won't suit the style of the plates. I will keep experimenting to see what feels right.

Almost There
29th May

Yesterday we had a full run through of the show. I am in two minds (nothing new) I am so tired that I just want things to be over, but I have had such an amazing 3 years that the thought of not having that incredible purpose in life is frightening. I left school being told that I had no creative or artistic ability and with my parent quite frankly disappointed that I wanted to work with horses. For the first half of my adult life I was more than content with this choice and I have had some amazing experiences and opportunities - including giving Princess Anne a leg up (but that is another story) and bottle rearing 14 baby piglets in the kitchen!  When I married and had my son after so many sad losses, I found myself happy and content in a different way.

After losing both my parents in the space of three years to cancer and then having my husband diagnosed with the same thing I felt as if I was no longer in control of my life and at an age where reinventing myself wasn't possible.

Well thank goodness I was wrong. I have learned that I am creative - everybody is- I have been to life drawing classes and come home so proud of my work. I have been a "Happy Sheep" (although a very grumpy one) and made puppets, I have been an Orc and I have discovered in the last few months a drive and commitment that I thought was long lost.

I was brought up to believe you shouldn't clap yourself, or ever be content with your achievements. Well I put my Munchausen costume on Gary for our final photoshoot yesterday and I am shouting out loud and clapping myself and finally I believe that I AM CREATIVE!!

Goofing Off
30th May

Well not exactly but I had a crash and burn moment with my technical plates on Friday as I was also trying to get my paper and power point ready for presenting at the MEDATS Conference in London today. Having to juggle plates in the air is wonderful as long as you can keep them spinning!

Anyway I travelled down to London working on my paper as I went. The conference was held at the Craftworkers Guild and I arrived as the first speaker was on. It turned out to be a lovely day, I met so any people I am in groups with on Facebook, as well as Sarsh Thursfield (Medieval Tailor's Apprentice) Jane and Ninya (Tudor Tailor) Dave Rushworth (Petty Chapman) and the lady who costumed the "Life on a Tudor Farm" series on the BBC. It was a chance to network with people who really know their stuff and I had been so worried that they would laugh at me - well in the end they did but only because I decided to make my talk, the last of the day, funny.

On the train back I was making buttons and frogs which resulted in a group of Lady Freemasons returning from their London Conference sitting and chatting with me all the way back to York. The day was capped off by returning to Scarborough on a train full of York Racegoers and a Stag Party!!

One of the Lady Freemasons makes their regalia and she was telling me how they smock the front of their gowns, I found myself thinking of how you would incorporate it into a costume. I shall try it out when I have finished the degree.

On the subject of which I am planning out my exhibition space in my head. I think I shall decorate it with the ship's wheel, life ring, drum and standard, but it may all be too much, I won't know until I have sketched it out later on today.

So many plates flying round, just need to keep them spinning!

Also Olivia posted a picture of the show brochure on our Facebook group it looks really nice,Phil Grundon is a very talented man. It is exciting to see it all being pulled together, normally when I have been working on a show with Scarborough College, I only get to be involved with the costume dress rehearsal and the costume design and make. I have gained a lot more insight from having to consider all the other aspects of the show. I can see now how they will relate back into future performances. It has given me the chance to see things from a slightly different viewpoint, not just the costume side of things, I will have a lot more sympathy for the other departments in the future.

Almost at the finish

So that is pretty much it. We handed in our Portfolios and set up our exhibition today. I don't know which costume I like the best, they are all very different. I have to admit to a strange feeling of restlessness this evening, having been at such a state of tension for so many weeks.

Now I am looking forward to the show.

The Boys are back in Town

This will be my last post before the show. I have all my models with me today, so I can get the blocking worked out properly for tomorrow. I don't suppose anyone will read this online journal, but just in case I shall try and add some pictures when it is all over, so that you can see the progress I made over the last part of my course. And at least you can wave me luck on the next stage of life's journey.

The Journey Goes On
16th June 2015

Well that is it, the show passed in a blur and the exhibition was a fun week, I went in several days and enjoyed talking to people about the costumes. It was interesting to see things through their eyes, they often were excited by things in costumes that I take for granted. I am very proud that I have been asked if Edward can go out as a display piece for Uni.

The end of three years is very strange, I keep having moments when I think I should be working on something and I spent the first part of last week with a cold and cough - something I only had one in the three years. It was as if my whole body wanted to shut down. I have started making a fancy dress costume for my son's end of undergrad extra just so I can use the sewing machine! On a better note I have a meeting at College on Thursday to discus costumes for "The Importance of Being Ernest" for October and next year's major production is "Alice In Wonderland".

I am waiting to hear back from York Uni about my Master's application. My tutors both gave me lovely references so I am just hoping York are generous.

The marks will be out this week, I hover between thinking I should get a good mark and thinking  will have been lucky to have passed. I didn't realise until today how much this piece of writing was worth, I don't know what sort of marks I will get for it but the writing of it has been worth every moment spent, it has proved an excellent way of emptying my thoughts every night

Well here I go!

My First Day as an MA Student at the University Of York

So I haven't been using Tackk much over the holidays, mainly because life went on hold while I waited for York to decide if they would take me or not (as you can see they did) and also because I have had a nice relaxing Summer with my family. I have several new projects on the go starting this week. I am reading three different books on early modern history in preparation for my course, pleasant surprise is the number of time people's clothing is mentioned in the context of social history.

I have also made a mini Florence Nightingale outfit for a school in Hartlepool this week. Not to difficult a task ( must take a photograph) It does seem strange not to photograph each stage and I am still wondering if I should?

The Importance of Being Ernest project is on hold at preset, which is a nuisance because I have bought all the fabric.

Yesterday I got an email from a friend who is having to cut down on their workload, asking me if I would like to make the regimental soldier's coats for a Sealed Knot group. It isn't a huge amount of money, but there isn't a large time commitment to it either, so it will

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3 years ago

@elspeth51 The use of crinoline steel and calico provides a really light costume. It was a development from my previous "Fears" costume. Up until the dress rehearsal I was planning to use foam with fur over it to make my Owl costume, but I am becoming increasingly concerned about the problem, of heat. The actress in the lion costume was really struggling. I was told this week that professional actors have to put up with this, but I really want people to enjoy wearing my costumes. I think I am going to use techniques learned on the Tin Man costume to make the body of my Owl. In terms of the use of the costume informing construction, I would have made different fastenings for the Tin Man had I realised how quickly the actors have to change at the end of the last scene in Oz. The Wizard of Oz Costumes are also for a very short run, so there is no problem with washing them between performances as there would have been with a longer run so I didn't have to consider that when making them up. The budget limited the choice of materials but, there is a great deal of enjoyment in hunting down bargain fabrics and alternative materials.

3 years ago

Does having a limited budget make you more resourceful and a better problem solver?

3 years ago

I would certainly like to think so. I also think it gives you more freedom to experiment. I love trawling through charity shops and jumble sales looking for items that can be transformed into something else.

3 years ago

There may also be an element of "cop out" to be fair, the dress in Wicked cost £10.000 (according to Wayne Martin) and if it didn't really take the audiences breath away then that would be a disaster. The costume on a budget should always exceed expectations. One of the nice things about this course has been my introduction to the use of expensive fabrics, and they do make wonderful costumes, but a tiny bit of me wants to make sows ears into silk purses and not the other way around.

3 years ago

It raises the question what is the purpose of a costume and what makes a costume ?

3 years ago

This seems to be as unanswerable as "How long is a piece of string?" Everyone I ask has a different view. The purpose of a costume seems to change with every different type of performance. The magician needs a costume to enable many of the elements of his act, the ballerina or trapeze artist needs a costume to enhance their shillouette. The actor uses a costume to ground his character, the audience to interpret the character. It can hide and reveal facets of the performance, it can astonish and cause wonder in its own right.

3 years ago

As to what makes a costume, this again causes differences of opinion. Is a costume a physical entity or can it be cgi or even body paint. Even nudity can be considered a costume in performance. A costume must be intended rather than accidental I think. Which is why a costume has to be designed not just thrown together.

3 years ago

This weekend will be Scarborough Scify, there will lots of people there who have invested a great deal of time and money in making character costumes from books, films, video games. They use costume to escape from normal life.

2 years ago

Do you think keeping a blog/diary of your work helps you as a form of stress relief? Would you carry on writing a blog like this during future projects to try and focus on the progress you are making?

2 years ago

Yes and yes. I like writing anyway and often have trouble sleeping, so being able to offload various thoughts has be cathartic. I would write different things in the future since this is supposed to be specific to the degree, but the "What is a costume?" thread is one which I want to continue to explore.